Hannah and James met in the oh-so modern way – online. When they met for the first time, it was clear the match was one made in Heaven. Hannah tells us, “James is everything I was looking for: caring, chatty, good family values, ambitious yet grounded, plus he dressed really well!” While James says of his first impressions, “Hannah is beautiful and we have a lot in common, including our outlook on life. So you could say it was love at first swipe.”
The proposal was quite spectacular, as James popped the question at the top of Mount Etna, while holidaying together in Sicily. Hannah explains, “Italy is, and always will be, a special place for us, as we went to Rome together early on in our relationship.” Later that weekend, the volcano erupted. We like to think that was its celebratory gesture!
The couple love to visit historical sites in their free time and Hannah in particular has always been fascinated by the Tudor history in Kent, all of which made Penshurst Place a dream location for them. “It’s breathtaking – the scale of the grand building, the manicured gardens and not forgetting the 14th-century Barons Hall filled with suits of armour, which reminded us of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones! What stood out most though was the banqueting team. They were all so friendly and organised. Knowing they’d be there on the day was a key deciding factor for us,” Hannah shares.
The date was set for 24th July, 2021. Read on as the bride reminisces with us about the couple’s stunning big day...
Opting for a historical setting meant that the duo didn't need to worry too much about an abundance of decoration, as the tapestries, paintings, armour and 14th-century chestnut-beamed ceiling took care of that for them. So as not to overshadow or crowd the place they chose an elegantly subtle palette of black and white, with a hint of blush.
They had originally booked the wedding for October 2020 with a vision of a cosy autumn day surrounded by crackling fires, foliage and candles. The second date was May, so Hannah spoke to the florist about peonies, as Penshurst had them growing in the gardens. But with the third and eventual date being July, they were now styling a summer wedding. The flowers were a huge part of this and they had in mind an English country garden feel with ivory roses and silver/green eucalyptus.
The florist also suggested a blush-hued rose called Quicksand that would complement the venue beautifully, so that too was incorporated and much admired by guests throughout the day. Two large urns were placed either side of the window where the pair said their vows, there was a display too on the table for signing the register, and a long arrangement for the top table, as well as centrepieces for each guest table. These were created using black candelabras with ivory pillar candles.
Since the ceiling is so high in the Baron’s Hall, the tall table centres worked perfectly. Hannah says, “Apart from a couple of spotlights the Hall is only lit by candlelight, which lent the most amazing atmosphere to the evening reception. It felt like a royal banquet!”
The venue kindly supplied metal easels to hold the order-of-the-day and table plan, both of which were designed in traditional script to suit the site's Tudor heritage.
Place names were hand-calligraphed on white card as were the table numbers, which were supported by mini white wooden easels. Plus, a further nod to the Tudors was made via the menus, which boasted a small white tassel each.
With such a grand location the pair knew they ought to have a big-day bake to match and opted for a five-tier showstopper. Hannah is a huge cake fan and wanted different flavours for each tier, including lemon and elderflower, chocolate and sea salt, and Victoria sponge. It was adorned in royal icing with sugar paste ruffles and hand-piped pearls.
Penshurst's recommended caterer, Seasoned Events, took care of everything from the drinks reception and canapés to the three-course wedding breakfast and the evening bar. The menu featured a matcha chicken and Parma ham starter, followed by a sea bass and vegetable main, and a Kentish strawberry trio of strawberry and basil cheesecake, strawberry macaroon and mini Eton mess.
Hannah searched high and low, but couldn't find the perfect wedding dress for her and eventually went for a custom gown. She explains, "The style was more important to me than the designer label, so I chose a backless fitted ivory lace dress with satin-covered buttons down the back and a big bow, which I tied around my waist. It had a slight train and I loved the scalloped lace edge along the bottom." The bride wore her hair in a beautiful chignon bun complete with delicate pearl hairpins.
The beautiful bridesmaids wore long blush pink dresses with dove grey feather boleros for the ceremony.
James had always dreamed of wearing black tie for the big day and found the perfect tux and dress shirt at Reiss. He finished the look with black leather monk shoes from Joseph Cheaney and his bride was very impressed indeed that he managed to tie his bow tie himself! His dapper Hackett waistcoat set him apart from his groomsmen.
The Penshurst String Quartet performed as loved ones arrived, during the ceremony and at the drinks reception, which seemed to be in perfect keeping with the history of the venue. Hannah shares, "They were fantastic and played a mix of classic and modern songs. Our guests commented that they felt as though they were in the Netflix series Bridgerton!"The newlyweds' shared a first dance to Etta James' At Last as their nearest and dearest looked on. Indeed, the song couldn't be more fitting for a third wedding date.
After two postponed dates due to Covid and nine months of waiting, the couple were both incredibly excited to finally get married, and had the honour of being the venue's first Saturday wedding following the easing of restrictions from 19th July. "We felt extremely lucky that we could welcome all 70 of our guests without the need for masks, as well as having a DJ and dancefloor for our reception," Hannah says.
The bride continues, "After nearly two years of planning, seeing our vision and dream day come to life, as well as seeing our guests enjoy it was truly special. Some of them hadn't seen each other in months, so it was a real reminder of how important weddings and special occasions like this are in bringing everyone together."
Hannah smiles as she remembers a couple of comical incidents from the morning: "The mother-of-the-bride made us late! She was the last person to get ready making it a rush to get to the venue. Our guests were waiting in the ceremony room for about 45 minutes. Then my sister, one of my bridesmaids, stepped on my veil on more than one occasion as we walked down the aisle. I can tell you she got the death stare from the bride!"
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